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Morgana Davies in "The Tree."

Zeitgeist Films,

Reviewed in brief 'The Tree' and 'The Whistleblower'

  • August 18, 2011 - 2:07 PM

THE TREE

In this lyrical Australian family drama, Charlotte Gainsbourg plays a recent widow whose 8-year-old daughter is convinced that Dad lives on in the gigantic tree that spreads its branches over their house. Morgana Davies is captivating as the girl who hears her father's voice in the rustling leaves, and Marton Csokas is solid as the new man in Mom's life who threatens to disrupt the family ecosystem. The arboreal metaphor is overworked as the tree's roots choke off the rural home's water supply, but the story has a winning, fable-like directness. And Gainsbourg, with her fetching butter-pat nose, is always fun to watch. --Colin Covert

  • ★★★ OUT OF FOUR STARS
  • Not rated; mature themes.
  • Where: Lagoon.
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THE WHISTLEBLOWER

This corporate thriller, inspired by actual events, stars Rachel Weisz as a Nebraska police officer who signs on as a peacekeeper in postwar Bosnia and uncovers sex trafficking that implicates defense contractors, local officials and U.N. staff alike. Director Larysa Kondracki presents the grim situation with unflinching realism, filming in an atmospheric palette of bruise blue and mud brown. Weisz channels the spirits of Karen Silkwood, Clarice Starling and Erin Brockovich, but her righteous intensity can't breathe life into a routine tale of coverups and top-level corruption. Somewhere inside this movie is a thought-provoking thriller about the collateral damage caused by geopolitical do-gooders. Too bad it never emerges. The supporting cast includes Vanessa Redgrave, David Straithairn and Monica Bellucci, all giving good value. --Colin Covert

  • ★★ 1/2 OUT OF FOUR STARS
  • Rating: R for violence, sexual assault, graphic nudity and language. In English and subtitled Croatian.
  • Where: Edina.
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Passione: A Musical Adventure

Actor/director John Turturro's first documentary is a loose and loving exploration of the music of Naples, a gritty Italian port city he finds brimming with erotic fire and refined art. In contrast to the sentimental balladry familiar to American ears, the musicians at the core of "Passione" have fused the expressive Neapolitan language with flamenco beats, Arabic ululations, thumping Eurobeat, American blues and jazz and even reggae. Turturro, who serves as tour guide, is clearly enraptured by Naples as he lets the camera meander like a wide-eyed visitor through the cobblestone squares and graffiti-filled alleyways. --ADAM BERNSTEIN, WASHINGTON POST

  • ★★★ 1/2 out of four stars
  • Not rated but aimed at mature audiences. In English and Italian, subtitled.
  • Where: Edina.
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IN MY SLEEP

Zzzzzzzz. This cable-TV-scaled mystery concerns a hunky massage therapist at an L.A. day spa who is afflicted with two psychological ailments. First, he's a sex addict. Second, he suffers from a rare form of sleepwalking. He's up and about while he's unconscious, but unable to remember his activities the next morning. This becomes very inconvenient when he wakes up covered in blood, clutching a butcher knife. Buff, flavorless Philip Winchester plays the lead in a manner so wooden it barely qualifies as balsa. With thrift-store sets, flat lighting, an insipid script and a musical score that should have Bernard Herrmann's heirs speed-dialing their lawyers, the film plays like Hitchcock for Dummies. --Colin Covert

  • ★ 1/2 OUT OF FOUR STARS
  • Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, violence and bloody images.
  • Where: St. Anthony Main.
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